GenreDrama, Comedy CountryUnited Kingdom
Release dateJanuary 20, 2000 (2000-01-20) (Sundance)
November 17, 2000 (2000-11-17) (US: limited)
August 31, 2001 (2001-08-31) (UK) WriterGurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges
TaglineThanksgiving. A celebration of food, tradition and relative insanity.
What s cooking trailer
You are invited to a tasty Thanksgiving dinner that will all at once transport you to four different worlds and take you home again. On the menu this November are turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie but also tamales, spring rolls, kugel, mac & cheese, love, betrayal, sibling rivalry, prejudice, politics, uninvited guests, unexpected accidents, outrageous conversations and all the other succulent and spicy surprises that arise when modern families come together for an annual meal.
Whats Cooking? is a 2000 British/American comedy-drama film directed by Gurinder Chadha and starring Mercedes Ruehl, Kyra Sedgwick, Joan Chen, Lainie Kazan, Maury Chaykin, Julianna Margulies, Alfre Woodard, and Dennis Haysbert.
In LA's Fairfax district, where ethnic groups abound, four households celebrate Thanksgiving amidst family tensions. In the Nguyen family, the children's acculturation and immigrant parents' fears collide. In the Avila family, Isabel's son has invited her estranged husband to their family dinner. Audrey and Ron Williams want to keep their own family's ruptures secret from Ron's visiting mother. In the Seelig household, Herb and Ruth are unwilling to discuss openly their grown daughter's living with her lover, Carla. Around each table, things come to a head. A gun, an affair, a boyfriend, and a pregnancy precipitate crises forcing each family to find its center.
On Thanksgiving day, four ethnically diverse families Vietnamese, Latino, Jewish, and African American — gather for the traditional meal. Each family has its own distinct way of cooking the traditional holiday meal and its own set of problems.
Ruth and Herb Seelig (Lainie Kazan and Maury Chaykin) welcome their daughter Rachel (Kyra Sedgwick) home for the holiday. Rachel brings her lesbian lover Carla (Julianna Margulies), much to Mom and Dads discomfiture. Additional relatives, not yet clued in, are scheduled to drop by.
Trin and Duc Nguyen (Joan Chen and Francois Chau) have just had their son ejected from school. If that isnt enough, Trin has found a condom among her daughters possessions. And her son isnt bothering to attend the gala affair at all, but is secretly going to the home of his Latino girlfriend at the Avilas.
Mrs. Elizabeth Avila (Mercedes Ruehl) is separated from her husband Javier (Victor Rivers) since he had a tempestuous affair with her cousin. Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, son Tony (Douglas Spain) has invited Papa over for the holiday meal as he has nowhere else to go. Unbeknownst to Tony, Mom has her own bombshell to drop. And, of course, the Avila daughter, Sofia (Maria Carmen), has invited her non-Latino boyfriend.
In the meantime, Audrey Williams (Alfre Woodard) must both cook and make nice with her overly critical mother-in-law, Grace (Ann Weldon), while the formers husband, Ronald (Dennis Haysbert), referees. The state of the couples marriage is tense, and their teenage son, Michael (Eric George), isnt expected to appear for unstated reasons, which perhaps is just as well as Ronalds approval rating of his boy is at an all-time low.
Mercedes Ruehl as Elizabeth "Lizzy" Avila
Kyra Sedgwick as Rachel Seelig
Joan Chen as Trinh Nguyen
Lainie Kazan as Ruth "Ruthie" Seelig
Maury Chaykin as Herb "Herbie" Seelig
Julianna Margulies as Carla
Alfre Woodard as Audrey Williams
Dennis Haysbert as Ronald Williams
Gregory Itzin as James Moore
Estelle Harris as Aunt Bea
Kieu Chinh as Grandma Nguyen
Reviews were mixed. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 52% based on reviews from 66 critics, with the sites consensus stating that the film is well-acted, but the scenes sometimes sink into melodrama as characters scream at each other, and the movie as a whole is too lightweight and forgettable."